Who was the best undrafted college free agent of all-time?
CB Dick “Night Train” Lane – Spent one year at a junior college and then four years in the Army before showing up at the Los Angeles Rams in 1952 and asking for a tryout. He set an NFL record that still stands today with 14 interceptions in his rookie season. Lane wound up playing 14 years, intercepting an NFL cornerback-record 68 passes. He was selected the best cornerback in the game’s first 50 years.
QB Warren Moon – There were 336 players and 14 quarterbacks selected in the 1978 NFL draft. The Rose Bowl MVP Moon was not one of them, so he went directly to Canada where he won five Grey Cups in six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. He returned stateside to play for the Houston Oilers in 1984 and spent 17 more seasons in the NFL. He ranks seventh on the NFL’s all-time passing list.
DT John Randle – An undersized defensive lineman at 6-1, 237 pounds from a small school (Texas A&M-Kingsville), Randle signed as a free agent with the Vikings in 1990. He hit double-digits in sacks by his third year – 11 ½ in 1992. That was the first of eight consecutive seasons in double figures in sacks for the seven-time Pro Bowler. He bulked up to 287 on the way to the Hall of Fame. His 137 1/2 sacks stand as a record for defensive tackles.
QB Kurt Warner – Played in Arena Football and NFL Europe before winning a job as a backup quarterback with the Rams in 1998. When Trent Green suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 1999 exhibition season, Warner was forced to play. And play he did, winning NFL MVP honors and steering the Rams to their first Lombardi Trophy. He’s a two-time NFL MVP and took two franchises to Super Bowls (also Arizona).
TE Antonio Gates – An All-Mid-American Conference basketball forward at Kent State, Gates decided to pursue football and signed with the Chargers in 2003. Gates rose from third-string to starter as rookie and caught 81 passes in his second season on the way to the first of his nine Pro Bowls. Still playing, Gates currently ranks fourth all-time in receptions among tight ends with 788 and second in touchdowns with 99.